IN THE NEWS
Supposedly, the motive behind four of the five TIF projects is the cosmetic improvement in the City’s appearance. Listing three of the justifications for spending TIF money and then checking to see if they apply to these cosmetic projects leads to the following:
|Project||Cost||If not for TIF||
|Improve Tax Base|
|Bury OverHead Lines||$900,000||yes||no||no|
|Raze Traver Hotel||$200,000||yes||yes||yes|
On a review of these TIF requirements only “Razing the Traver Hotel” meets the three requirements and most residents of Lake Geneva would like to see the eyesore removed. The Geneva Theater meets two of the three requirements, but it does not meet the real purpose of TIF to increase the area’s taxing base. In fact the Theater project would actually be spending $800,000 and reduce the property tax revenue by enabling the transfer of the Geneva Theater property to a tax exempt group. Unlike the Traver Hotel issue, support for this issue is mixed with the residents who appear to be equally divided over the project. The other two projects, “Burying overhead Cables” and “Downtown Signage,” do not meet either tax base increase or the removal of “Blight” unless one distorts the TIF meaning of blight.
The irony is that the city does not need the TIF Board’s approval to do these projects. If the TIF District were to be closed today, then the city would receive more than enough TIF money to do all 5 TIF projects with some left over. But if the city can intimidate, persuade or bribe the members of the TIF Board to approve these projects then the city will effectively have gotten the other members of the TIF Board to pay 75% of the cost for these Lake Geneva projects. So how can the City of Lake Geneva convince the TIF Board members to approve these TIF projects and effectively pay for 75% of the project costs with the money they would have received if TIF #4 were to be closed now? Simple, they bribe them with future taxpayer money and this is how it is done.
The city’s argument will be that if TIF #4 remains open the city will collect about $4 million in the next two years. Despite the City of Lake Geneva spending $2.5 million from the TIF pot, local area tax payers will increase the TIF pot by an extra $1.5 million dollars. So every governing body on the TIF board will benefit financially by approving Lake Geneva’s TIF projects, because it will keep TIF #4 open and it will collect more than the city spends. If the TIF Board approves Lake Geneva’s projects it will cost us (area taxpayers) an extra 4 million in taxes, of which $1.5 million is the incentive (bribe) to be divided up among the governing bodies as a reward for approving Lake Geneva’s TIF projects and keeping TIF #4 open. This is what was meant by the city council’s statement of lowering the total TIF projects to something that the TIF board would approve. In other words, the area residents will be paying about $4,000,000 extra in property taxes for the city to get its $2,500,000 worth of TIF projects and then the extra $1,500,000 will be divided among the schools, county, city, etc.
For whom are our representatives really working?
We are not sure, but it certainly is not us, the taxpayers.